At this point the Nashville Predators will seize any opportunity to claim victory.
So when Jordin Tootoo got the best of world-class agitator Sean Avery in a fight Saturday night, it seemed like as good a time as any. As Tootoo skated to the bench with 3:25 to play in the opening period he raised both arms with the first two fingers on each hand in the shape of a ‘V’ and soaked in the adoration and admiration from his teammates as well as the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.
At the time of Tootoo’s triumph, the Predators had a one-goal lead and the positive vibe lasted for quite a while.
Eventually, though, Avery’s Rangers got a game-tying goal with just under seven minutes to play in regulation and ultimately won a shootout, which left Nashville to deal with a 2-1 defeat, their fourth straight loss overall and their second straight in a shootout in as many home games.
“There’s a lot of good things happening with our team, but this is a game of wins and losses,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The shootouts are great – they’re great for the fans – but we feel like we lost a game. We didn’t lose a game, we lost in a little bit of a skills competition.”
The Predators outshot the Rangers 30-24 and had the lead from 5:10 after the opening faceoff, when Colin Wilson scored his third of the year, until 6:54 remained in the third period. That’s when a broken stick led to an extended Rangers’ possession, which ended when Ryan Callahan knocked in a rebound chance off the skate of J.P. Dumont.
In between, Tootoo – who won a fight the night before at Minnesota even more decisively – landed the majority of blows in his fight with Avery, which ended with Avery off balance and on the ice and Tootoo’s celebration.
“I would have liked to get the two points (for a victory) more but (Tootoo) did a great job,” captain Shea Weber said. “… I thought we had a really good first (period), using the crowd and got into it. … I think we played a pretty strong game until we gave up that goal in the third.”
Tootoo and Avery actually attempted to square off two minutes earlier on a faceoff, but the referee sent them to the box for roughing. The moment they exited, they found each other and dropped the gloves.
“It’s part of the game and obviously you want to bring emotion to the game,” Tootoo said. “I knew we were going to go at it right out of the penalty box there. … Fortunately once I got my gloves off, I teed off on him.
“You can talk all you want, but you have to bring your game with it. He’s a guy who loves to blab and just doesn’t come through with his actions.”
Say what you will about the Predators (9-9-4), who are now at .500 for the second time this season (through 23 games they have not had a losing record), are last in the Central Division and 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.
Just don’t say they’re not playing hard, or it’s their coach who will be looking for fight.
“I’m not disappointed in our effort, I’m disappointed in the end result,” Trotz said. “We’ve gotten beat in a shootout, which is a little more of a skills competition.
“Our guys played hard, and anybody who says we didn’t – let’s go to war.”
• Defenseman Cody Franson was taken to the hospital after he took a stick to the face early in the third period. There was no definitive diagnosis of the extent of the injury following the contest.
“He’s being evaluated,” Trotz said. “Just talking to our trainers, without … any report coming back, I think he’ll be fine. Hopefully they don’t find anything.”
• The Predators were shorthanded behind the bench because of illness that is going through the team.
Associate coach Brent Peterson was home with the bug, which caused Kevin Klein to be left behind when the team played in Minnesota on Friday and Nick Spaling to be sent home from the morning skate on Saturday. Spaling was in the lineup against the Rangers, but was used primarily as a penalty killer.